Tag Archives: Matthew

Galatians 1:1 – Commissioned.

Paul an apostle – sent neither by human commission nor from human authorities, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead. (Galatians 1:1 NRSV)

Who has sent you? Who has commissioned you? Is it God, or is it man? If it is Christ who has commissioned you then, like Paul, you can be confident in your call. If you only have been sent by men then you have no real basis for spiritual authority. As spiritual authority comes from God alone.

I have been commissioned by Jesus himself in a vision to ‘Go!’, I can be secure in his call and can move in his authority. You may say, ‘I haven’t been commissioned like that!’, that may be true, but we have all been commissioned to go in Jesus’ power and authority.

‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ (Matthew 28:18-20 NRSV)

Lord Jesus, help us to take your commission seriously, and to go in your power and authority, whether it be to the one or to the many. Help us also to know your calling on our lives so we can glorify you in all we do. Amen!

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Matthew 16:18 – The Dry-Stone Wall Church

Before my prayer time on the evening of the 11th January 2013 I just felt that God was saying he had something special for me but I didn’t know what.  As is usual these days he was already there waiting for me to come into the place of prayer in his presence, not the other way round. I was saying ‘Thank you that your presence is already here’, not ‘Please come, Lord’.

 When I walked back into the living room to spend time with him he literally knocked me to my knees by the weight of his presence. While on my knees God gave me a glimpse of Jesus building his church in a vision. What I saw was a physical representation of the spiritual reality.

 The church was made up of rough stones, not dressed stones, and the building method Jesus was using was that of dry-stone walling.  This I easily comprehended and understood as I was brought up in Derbyshire where almost every field boundary is a dry-stone wall!

It was not a dry-stone wall like you sometimes see these days will regularly shaped dressed stones, but was one made up of irregular stones of different sizes and shapes.  In a dry stone wall there are faced stones which you see on the outside of the wall, within the wall you find many smaller stones which are used for packing and to stabilise the whole wall.  The whole church was being built on top of a large slab of bedrock, and the builder was Jesus. There was also a small bell tower on top, an open one and contained a single bell.

Boulder and Bedrock.

 ‘And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.’ Matthew 16:18 (NRSV)

Here Jesus tells Peter that he is a ‘petros’, a ‘stone’, a ‘rock’, a ‘boulder’. He may be substantial in size, but he is separate from the bedrock.  He is one of the big stones built into the bottom of the dry stone wall of the church.

On the other hand he is not the ‘petra’, the ‘bedrock’.  The ancient city of Petra is called that because it was built out of the very bedrock itself.  That bedrock is Jesus himself and the fact that he is ‘the Messiah, the Son of the living God’ Matthew 16:16 (NRSV) as Peter stated on the Father’s revelation.

In this Scripture, as in the vision it is Jesus who is building his church. It is not you or I, it is not the pastor or elders or anyone else, it is Jesus. We need to make sure that we do not try to take credit for something which is not of our doing!

Bell Tower and Bell.

A bell makes a very pure sound and so should our preaching of the gospel. Living lives in holiness should be an integral part of our message that speaks volumes. We should also not complicate the gospel. The message is simple, we were dead in our sins (Ephesians  2:1) as all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory that God wanted mankind to have (Romans 3:23) so Jesus came and paid the price by the shedding of his blood on the cross to take away our sins (1 Peter 2:24). He then rose again and is now seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven (Acts 2:33), when we trust in him we have eternal life which starts now (1 Timothy 6:12) and he sends the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33) to enable us to live lives that are both holy (Ephesians 1:4) and a demonstration of his power on earth (Acts 1:8).

There was only one bell, not many. Unity in Spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24) is very powerful. God is calling us to live in unity as Christians. To come together in worship, humility, prayer and intercession as a united people. ‘If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.’ 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NRSV). In past revivals God has moved because of the prayers of a few, this time I feel he wants more of his people praying in faith for him to move in power and reveal his glory. Are we prepared to come before him as a humble people united in prayer?

 Faced not Dressed Stones.

The fact that the stones were faced but not dressed is in fact significant. In the Old Testament God told Moses, ‘But if you make for me an altar of stone, do not build it of hewn stones; for if you use a chisel upon it you profane it.’ Exodus 20:25 (NRSV). This was one thing that separated an altar to the Lord from an altar to a false god, as their altars were generally made from dressed stones.

We are all different, like the stones being used to build the church building. We are to be in unity, but not uniformity. We are to celebrate our differences and be the individuals God wants us to be, then we will truly all fit together as he builds us into his church.

The visible stones were faced. In the past many people in churches have been taught not to reveal their struggles, but God is calling us to be honest. We can neither fool him, nor non-Christians with our religiosity, they see straight through it as easily as God does. In fact hypocrisy switches non-Christians off very quickly and is very bad witness, and it is one thing that makes God very angry as it is spiritual pride! We need to ask him to help us to be real, both with him and with all others whether they are Christians or non-Christians. Faced stones also look clean and fresh, we need to let Jesus knock off anything that will get in the way of his light shining through us.

 All important.

Not all of the stones were visible, but the hidden stones used for packing are incredibly important in the making of a dry-stone wall. This is also true in the church. As Paul says ‘the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honourable we clothe with greater honour, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect’ 1 Corinthians 12:22-23 (NRSV). We need to learn to raise up the encouragers, the intercessors, those with administrative and practical gifts so that their service is a joy not a burden as can often be the case because they are the lifeblood of the church and are central to its stability.

Jesus is building his church, and we are the living stones being built into its structure (1 Peter 2:5), although the vision I saw was of a physical structure it represents the spiritual structure of the church. Let’s be the church that Jesus has called us to be!

Matthew 5:13 – Salt

Over Christmas I cooked a few gammon joints, and also enjoyed eating them, as I am sure many others of you have.  To cook and eat a ham or gammon joint is a little ritual many do over Christmastime that they may not do any other time of year.  If you are like me then you will always soak your gammon or ham before you cook it.  I do this as I do not like things too salty, so by soaking it before I cook it I can get rid of excess salt and I personally think they taste far better as well as being far healthier as soaking greatly reduces the salt content and as we know too much salt is not good for your blood pressure among other things.

It got me thinking today about salt and water in the Bible. I shall look at salt in this post and water in the next post, as it is too long for just one post.

 ‘You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?  It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled underfoot.’ (Matthew 5:13 NRSV)

In Biblical times salt was precious, it was costly. Salt has always had two primary culinary uses, both in antiquity and in the present day.

  • The first as a condiment, to improve the flavour of your food during cooking and on your plate when you are eating it, used in this way you use relatively small amounts.  Salt used as a flavouring does not alter the nature of what it is adding flavour to, its nature remains the same.  It may taste better but will still go bad if you don’t eat it within a short space of time.
  • The second is as a preservative of fish and meat, this takes much larger quantities to have the desired effect.  Salting meat or fish changes the very nature and permanently changes the flavour of that meat or fish, it means that it can be kept for a long period of time and will no longer bad if you don’t eat it within a short space of time.

Now here’s a question for you.  Do you want to just add a little flavour to the society, or do you want to change its very nature?

 Jesus wants us to change our society.  If we look at how he and his disciples modelled ministry, they spoke with spiritual authority and moved in the power of the Holy Spirit, this had a radical effect on the society they lived in.

If all we settle for is just to flavour society, then we are selling ourselves short and missing the point.  We may make society seem a bit ‘nicer’, but we will not change it.  This is why prohibition failed in America and it strengthened criminals and corruption, it did not deal with the root causes it just tried to deal with symptoms.

But what if we are to be a preservative in the society we live in, what does it really mean? What does a preservative do? Here are a few things:

  • It changes the nature of the thing being preserved so it will last for longer so that it will not start decaying. This is what the gospel does to our lives, like the meat or fish to be preserved we are already dead, but we will just decay even further if our nature is not changed. The gospel doesn’t just flavour our lives, it radically changes them. We go from being dead to being alive when we accept the gospel and make Jesus our Lord and Saviour, we are born again to the abundant life God has for us. Can people see that life in us? Or are we just like them so that we blend in.
  • It ‘stops the rot’! It is best to start preserving something before it starts rotting, but if you left it a bit late and things were already starting to rot you don’t need to worry, just cut out the worst bits and preserve it anyway, it will stop rotting, and you will even be able to eat bits that had just started rotting as they are altered by the preserving nature of the salt or salts used. (This is not recommended these days, but in the past people were used to more bugs in their food than we are these days!) We live a very perverted society these days, where sex sells anything and everything, alcoholism is on the ascendency once again in this country and drug use is considered acceptable, I never smelled cannabis until I was at university, but these days I smell it in the street at least once a week, generally more. We have to stop the rot and restore things to how they should be, this will only work if we are a preservative!

So we are to be salt as a preservative, people changed by Jesus who stop the rot in society.

 We are also to be salt as a seasoning, but must never let our being salt just be reduced to this. Paul said ‘Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.’ Colossians 4:6 NRSV. From this we can understand what the salt is, it is truth, God’s truth. It is his truth and the out-working of it in our lives that enables us to see changed lives in others as our lives themselves have been changed and to bring radical change to the society in which we live, and to touch the lives of others through our conversation.

 The salt Jesus refers to is truth, and this is how we lose our saltiness, by reducing God’s truth so it fit in with truth as defined by the society in which we live. If we either actively rebel against God’s truth, or just try to blend in then we will not see lives changed or stop the cycle of decline in society. What then? Well all we will be useful for is to be thrown on the ground to clear the snow, for people to walk on! If we lack God’s truth in our lives then we will be mocked by men, I would rather be mocked for standing boldly for Jesus, and walking lovingly in Spirit and in truth than be mocked for standing for a powerless Christianity that stands for nothing at all!

 Heavenly Father, help us to be salt as you have called us to be, people who’s lives have been so changed by Jesus that we speak the truth by our actions as well as our words and lead others to Jesus to change their lives too. Help us not to be so bothered about fitting in society that we lose our saltiness so we are worth nothing but being thrown out and walked on, then we will see lives changed, society changed and you glorified. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer #9 – Holy Father.

‘Our Father in heaven,
     hallowed be your name.’ (Matthew 6:9 NRSV)

This is the first of the four parts of The Lord’s Prayer that we shall be looking at.  This prayer is also known as the Paternoster (from the Latin) and its English equivalent the ‘Our Father’ by Roman Catholics.

In this section we are looking at the fact that God is our Holy Father and how we should respond to that.

If you are a Roman Catholic reading this, then you will be saying but that is the Pope’s title.  I would challenge that!  That title should belong to God alone.

Jesus said, ‘call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father – the one in heaven.’ (Matthew 23:9 NRSV). And elsewhere we read that God is ‘Holy, holy, holy’ (Isaiah 6:3 and Revelation 4:8 NRSV), we see this here by two things that ‘Our Father’ is ‘in heaven’, and that our response is to hallow his name, that is to treat it as holy.

Let’s unpack this section in a bit more detail.

The first thing that we should notice is that we pray in , the prayer starts with ‘Our Father’, not ‘My Father’.  Even when we pray alone we always pray as part of the Body of Christ.  In fact we never can pray alone! Jesus could, but when we pray all the Trinity is involved, we pray to the Father, through the Holy Spirit and in the name and power of Jesus.

So we pray in community, but we are also praying as part of the family, this is unique to Christianity.  Under the Old Covenant Abraham was a friend of God, and John was the last and greatest prophet under that Old Covenant, but Jesus said that, ‘the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he’ (Matthew 11:11 NRSV).  There are two reasons for this, firstly because John was not filled with the Holy Spirit, and secondly because under the New Covenant we are children of God which John was not under the Old Covenant.

We are praying to ‘Our Father’ who is ‘in heaven’.  Scripturally there are three heavens. The physical heavens, the spiritual realm, and heaven where God dwells (I shall look at this in another post).  It is the third of those that is being referred to here, where God dwells.  Here there is nothing unholy, because God is absolutely HOLY.

This is why our response must be, ‘hallowed be your name’.  Our response to God’s holiness must be to recognise that holiness, and ask him to help us to live all of our lives in the light of that.  God’s heart is that everything will be ‘Holy to the LORD’ (Zechariah 14:20 NRSV) from horse bells to common cooking pots.  It is not about retreating from the world, but being so filled with God that all we do is touched by God and can be used to glorify him alone.

Holy Father, help me to live my life in light of who you are.  To worship you alone, and to live my whole life dedicated only to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer #7 – A Later Doxology

‘For the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours forever.  Amen.’ (Matthew 6:13 NRSV marginal note).

In some translations this is given with the main text, in others it is a marginal reading.  The reason for this is that it is thought that this doxology (a short hymn of praise often added to the end of psalms etc) was added to the text later date.  The thing is this doxology may have been added to the text at a later date but may well have been used to finish off the prayer from much earlier.

Regardless of that, it actually sums up the prayer perfectly by bringing the focus back onto who God is.  This is an essential part of how we should pray, both individually and corporately.  What better way is there  to end a time of prayer than to focus again on God.  It is God’s kingdom that we are praying to see on this earth.  It is by his power that we see answers to prayer, and he alone is glorious and eternal.

Amen! Or as it means, ‘So be it’.  What better way to end the prayer than with this powerful word of agreement!

Heavenly Father, help us always to focus back on you at the close of any prayer time, as you are the reason we pray and you alone have the power to fulfill and surpass what we ask for.  ‘For the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours forever. Amen.’

The Lord’s Prayer #6 – … Then God Will Meet Our Needs

We will now look at the second part of The Lord’s Prayer, the first half starting with ‘Our Father’ focused squarely on God, the second half focuses on our needs.

Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
     as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial [us into temptation],
     but rescue us from the evil one. (Matthew 6:11-13 NRSV [Marginal reading]).

We started by focusing on God and on his desires for this world, the world he created.  Only now do we, his creatures, focus on our needs and wants.

But do you really pray like this?  Let’s be honest do you really?

That is a challenge to all of us!  It is not because our needs are of no importance to God that they come in the second half of The Lord’s Prayer, it is just that he knows that we need to keep them in perspective.  If we do not then they take over, and we can see no further than our naval and would miss his Kingdom completely!

Yet even this part of the prayer still keeps its focus squarely on God if we view it correctly.  Why?  Because it is God who is provides for us, forgives us and enables us to forgive others.  He alone who leads me from temptations, and protects me from all workings of the evil one.

Heavenly Father, help us to realise that the more we pray for your great Kingdom, the more we will see your care and provision in our own lives.  Since when we do, we can see things from your heavenly perspective.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer #5 – Seeking God and his Kingdom First.

We are now going to start looking at The Lord’s Prayer in greater detail. Initially we are going to look at it in two halves, as the focus of each half is obvious.

Our Father in heaven,
     hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
     on earth as it is in heaven. 
(Matthew 6:9-10 NRSV)

Who is the focus of this half of The Lord’s Prayer?

It should be obvious, but here are a few clues.  We read ‘our’ only once, but ‘your’ three times, and in fact these are all referring to the same person, to God, as God is ‘Our Father’.  It is God who is ‘in heaven’, and it is his ‘kingdom’ and ‘will’ that we want to see ‘on earth as it is in heaven’.

Now this is how Jesus structured his prayers, yet this is the antithesis of so much prayer that takes place today.  Jesus had got his priorities right, it was about his Father first of all.  Elsewhere Jesus says ‘Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.’ (John 5:19 NRSV).  This shows that he taught others how he prayed himself.

Jesus prayed for and sought what his Father wanted before what he wanted.  The ultimate expression of this is when he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives on the night he was betrayed.  Here Jesus prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.’ (Luke 22:42 NRSV).  This was no nice prayer, it was so deep and painful a prayer that, ‘In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.’ (Luke 22:44 NRSV).  This prayer cost Jesus everything, because he wanted his Father’s will before his own, and if we really grasp this then we will realise that he is asking nothing less of us!

If we, like Jesus, get our priorities right then we will have our prayer revolutionised!  When we start seeing that God’s needs (God is sovereign and could easily work without us; but he chooses to work in, with and through us so needs us to work with him) come first, then we change how we pray, and that in turn changes us.

This is one of the reasons why Jesus had so much power, that he sought to do his Father’s will not his own, the second was that he was filled with the Holy Spirit and did all things through his anointing.  If we want to truly walk as Jesus walked then we need to start getting things in the right order.  It is not that our needs are unimportant, but Jesus says we should ‘strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.’ (Matthew 6:33 NRSV).

Who comes first in your prayers, is it God or you?  Are you really prepared to follow Jesus example and pay the price in prayer?  Do you want to see God working in mighty ways?  Do you want it badly enough to ‘strive’ for it?  What do you think?